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A Brief History of Nuremberg


The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg was a trial conducted at the instruction of the victorious powers, and at the instigation of the American Presidents, Roosevelt and Truman. As such it was an American show, held at the expense of Americans. It was independent of the nascent International Court, and held under rules drawn up by prosecuting victors.


Although only one trial, the tribunal tried twenty four defendants who were each prosecuted by four nations; the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia. Here are some key dates :


May 2nd

• Robert Jackson appointed US Chief of Counsel. Jackson was to be the leading figure of the tribunal. It was he, more than anyone, who

championed the requirement of a system of international criminal law. He was an evangelist who was left frustrated and bitter by the gulf

between his vision and the reality of international justice.

May 7th 

• Germans surrender.


May 29th 

• David Maxwell Fyfe appointed Attorney General. Solicitor General in the wartime coalition, Maxwell Fyfe became Attorney General in the short- lived post war Conservative government.

June 26th

• London Conference opens. Chaired by Maxwell Fyfe this conference drew up the terms of the London Agreement and supporting charter which established the terms of the tribunal.

June 20th

• Election Campaign begins in UK.  Churchill called an election.  This meant that Maxwell Fyfe was involved in a campaign at the same time as chairing the London Conference.

July 6th

• Polling Day in UK, although the result was not know for three weeks: the conference continues.

July 15th

• Potsdam Conference opens, securing Stalin’s support for the tribunal.

July 26th

• Election Result published, and the Labour victory led to Maxwell Fyfe anticipating no further involvement after the Agreement and Charter are signed.

August 8th

• London Agreement signed.

• Charter signed defining for the first time :

    – Crimes against peace

    – War Crimes

    – Crimes against humanity

During August

• Hartley Shawcross, the Labour Attorney General, on reviewing his domestic work load, asks David Maxwell Fyfe to stand in as Acting Chief Prosecutor, continuing his work.

August 23rd

• Chief Prosecutors meeting.

• Published list of defendants.

6th October

• Indictment agreed by Prosecution.

18th October

• Indictment published by judges.

19th October

• Indictment presented to defendants; judges insist that defendants have representation.

28th October

• Maxwell Fyfe and UK Prosecution team to Nuremberg.

20th November

• Opening of Trial.

    – Indictment read

    – Pleas entered

    – Start of American Case

•The case for conspiracy

12th December

• Start of British Prosecution Case

    –The case against the starting aggressive war.

• The case for conspiracy


17th January

• Start of French Prosecution Case

    – War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity in Western Europe.

8th February

• Start of Russian Prosecution Case

    – War Crimes and Crimes against humanity in Eastern Europe.

4th March

• Completion of Case for the Prosecution.

8th March

• Defence case opens with Goering.

• Followed by Hess, Ribbentrop, Keitel, Kaltenbrunner, Rosenberg, Frank, Frick, Streicher, Schacht, Funk, Doenitz, Raeder, von Shirach,  Saukel, Jodl, Seyss Inquart, von Papen, Speer, Neurath, Fritzsche.


4th July

• Defence begins summing up.

25th July

• Prosecution begins summing up.

30th July

• Start of the prosecution of the organisations.

31st August

• Defendants last pleas.

30th September

• Judgement delivered, followed by sentencing.

11th October

• Executions carried out.

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